Long Distance Walking - the Mental Game. Chapter 3. "Know Your Emotions"

Long Distance Walking - the Mental Game. Chapter 3.

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This aide memoire was originally written for our younger walkers about to embark on a three week adventure on the Annapurna Circuit. It's been incrementally fine tuned since then. You may find it helpful. Feedback and ideas always welcome.

Know Your Emotions/Emotional Reactions

Any long period of time away can create conflicting emotions. There is a sense of adventure possibly mixed with the worry about the unknown or the longing for home/homesickness. How do we handle these negative emotions? The homesickness? There are some things that can help.

  • The most easy, but also the most difficult decision is to simply tell someone you are say, homesick. Now we are talking real mental toughness. How many of us want to admit we feel isolated, lonely, homesick where we are walking with some of our best friends? The mentally tough will do just that if it helps. And sometimes just saying it is the best medicine – you will be surprised how many others are feeling the same way. Just take care to ensure you don’t turn your conversation into a negative pity session.
  • Team up with those who have lots of experience being away for long periods of time. They may still have those feelings of loneliness but chances are they have learned to recognise and manage them. Or you may strike one who is genuinely pleased to be in the wild and does not feel alone at all. You don’t have to get all confessional with them if you don’t want to, but hanging with a colleague with a positive view of being off the map can be very helpful.
  • On matter of emotional fragility beware the jokester in the group. They might make you laugh but in the long run, especially over a period of weeks the jokester may well be unhelpfully covering over any fragility. The best solution – talk out any fragility first then get your dose of the jokester.

It is important to understand that you will experience a period, multiple times, when you are ‘in the zone’. It might be at the top of a peak, at the furthest point from civilisation, or it may even be when you are filled with exhilaration at being at such a remote and uncivilised place.  Maybe it is when you realise you have accomplished more than you have ever accomplished before. The zone will be a place where you will feel that nothing can beat you, that you are capable of any physical challenge and all is well with the world. Hopefully on a long trek you will experience ‘the zone’ on multiple occasions.

Why is it important to recognise this? Simply because there will be a corresponding departure from the zone. It is most often experienced when you are sitting in your office, back in the classroom or otherwise caught up in the mundane minutiae of life. But you can and will come out of the zone while on the long distance trek. Ensure you recognise and anticipate the transition and that you talk it out if necessary.

Chapter Two  A Positive Approach

Chapter Four Managing the Length of Time

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